Tuesday, August 21, 1711.
‘Cui in manu sit quem esse dementem velit,
Quem sapere, quem sanari, quem in morbum injici,
Quem contra amari, quem accersiri, quem expeti.’
Caecil. apud Tull.
The following Letter and my Answer shall take up the present Speculation.
‘I am the young Widow of a Country Gentleman who has left me Entire Mistress of a large Fortune, which he agreed to as an Equivalent for the Difference in our Years. In these Circumstances it is not extraordinary to have a Crowd of Admirers; which I have abridged in my own Thoughts, and reduced to a couple of Candidates only, both young, and neither of them disagreeable in their Persons; according to the common way of computing, in one the Estate more than deserves my Fortune, and in the other my Fortune more than deserves the Estate. When I consider the first, I own I am so far a Woman I cannot avoid being delighted with the Thoughts of living great; but then he seems to receive such a Degree of Courage from the Knowledge of what he has, he looks as if he was going to confer an Obligation on me; and the Readiness he accosts me with, makes me jealous I am only hearing a Repetition of the same things he has said to a hundred Women before. When I consider the other, I see myself approached with so much Modesty and Respect, and such a Doubt of himself, as betrays methinks an Affection within, and a Belief at the same time that he himself would be the only Gainer by my Consent. What an unexceptionable Husband could I make out of both! but since that’s impossible, I beg to be concluded by your Opinion; it is absolutely in your Power to dispose of
Your most Obedient Servant,
You do me great Honour in your Application to me on this important Occasion; I shall therefore talk to you with the Tenderness of a Father, in Gratitude for your giving me the Authority of one. You do not seem to make any great Distinction between these Gentlemen as to their Persons; the whole Question lies upon their Circumstances and Behaviour; If the one is less respectful because he is rich, and the other more obsequious because he is not so, they are in that Point moved by the same Principle, the Consideration of Fortune, and you must place them in each others Circumstances before you can judge of their Inclination. To avoid Confusion in discussing this Point, I will call the richer Man Strephon, and the other Florio. If you believe Florio with Strephon’s Estate would behave himself as he does now, Florio is certainly your Man; but if you think Strephon, were he in Florio’s Condition, would be as obsequious as Florio is now, you ought for your own sake to choose Strephon; for where the Men are equal, there is no doubt Riches ought to be a Reason for Preference. After this manner, my dear Child, I would have you abstract them from their Circumstances; for you are to take it for granted, that he who is very humble only because he is poor, is the very same Man in Nature with him who is haughty because he is rich.
When you have gone thus far, as to consider the Figure they make towards you; you will please, my Dear, next to consider the Appearance you make towards them. If they are Men of Discerning, they can observe the Motives of your Heart; and Florio can see when he is disregarded only upon your Account of Fortune, which makes you to him a mercenary Creature: and you are still the same thing to Strephon, in taking him for his Wealth only: You are therefore to consider whether you had rather oblige, than receive an Obligation.